Things are happening like never before. Soon and very soon our thick forests will be lit up. President Muhammadu Buhari himself confirmed that as much last week:
“We intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.”
That will be our own queer way of checkmating kidnapping, terrorism and banditry. Always strange, obscure.
That is why Ambassador Yahaya Kwande’s attempt to play an absurd Man Friday role the other day, though odd and curious should not go unnoticed. Thank God he failed woefully. He came out at the wrong time, for the very wrong reason.
By the way, I dare not take your indulgence for granted. It is not in my character. A part of this headline, Man Friday, is adopted from Daniel Defoe’s 1719 book, Robinson Crusoe.
Kwande certainly caught the other side of some of us, particularly from Kwara and Kogi states. He unknowingly drew our uncanny attention.
The elder statesman is in the ilk of Prof. Ango Abdullahi, former vice chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. Kwande himself was Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Switzerland under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government. He once represented the Queen of England as Senior Administrative Officer.
To our disgust, he carelessly opted to open old wounds. He not only festered it, he poured salt on our bleeding injury. We are pained to the marrow.
Don’t blame him, he spoke as deputy chairman, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), North Central Zone (whatever that means to them). He told us his “co-elders” in the forum were unsettled and worried. Not only that, they are having nightmares.
He was absolutely on point. He rightly identified the cause of their troubled minds. The emerging robust alliance between the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Southern Leaders Forum (South-South, South East and South West) is causing a rumpus. NEF is no longer at ease; it is restless and uncomfortable. Kwande displayed the displeasure with all the strength in him.
He poured: “The NEF is concerned that several statements have been credited to persons claiming to be leaders of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and their friends in the southern part of the country.”
He claimed the MBF suggested “that we are effectively part of the communities in the former Southern Nigeria made up of Western, Mid-Western and Eastern Nigeria in our political disposition.”
He spat fire: “While we share many bonds with other Nigerians, we wish to emphatically state that we are northerners and have always been so from the creation of Nigeria. Our history, destiny and mode of life have always been northern and our region of the Middle Belt is an integral part of the North.
“There are no ambiguities regarding where our interests lie as they are located with the interest of the North.” He vowed that NEF would resist any attempt to distort the “historical” divides.
Kwande, the “Man Friday” has spoken. And that pleased his co-travellers in their NEF. It was how an elder statesman should not talk. His vomit was repulsive, sickening and nauseating. It was completely out of tune with the stark reality on ground.
He feigned ignorance of the feelings of the people that he pretended to lead. He only stirred the pent-up anger in us. He referred us to history but failed to be honest with the whole truth.
Kwande should not insult us. Anywhere in the world, natural landmarks and monuments serve as natural boundaries and borders. These include but are not limited to rivers and maintains.
But not so with the awkward contraception labelled Nigeria. We have all these monuments and landmarks in rich abundance, yet, we mischievously failed to make good use of them. Instead, we opted for frivolities. We created artificial boundaries that have no bearings with our hopes and aspirations. They couldn’t have solved any of our problems anyway. That is why we are where we are today.
Rivers Niger and Benue are there for us. They ought to serve as our natural boundaries. They are God-given, with good intentions. We preferred to dump God’s plan in the dustbin. The result was the eerie history of the 1914 amalgamation. A merger perfected on a mere bottle of wine by a couple: Lord Lugard and Lady Flora. It was sealed and signed without our consent, not even an input from us.
It is such times like this that the Kwandes would remember that their North is one. They would appeal to our sensibilities when it is convenient for them. They did it successfully in the past and we are still nursing the wounds.
They used carrot and stick. Some blacklegs and bootlickers among us fell for the bait. And they became their prey till death. They were used, abused and dumped.
Chief Sunday Awoniyi, remember him? He was the classical example of an instrument of divide and rule. He played the role very well in the hands of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, the first and only Premier of the defunct Northern Region.
Awoniyi was unarguably the closest to the northern seat of power in Kaduna from the Yoruba-speaking part of the region, now Kwara and Kogi states. He made selfish use of that “rare” opportunity.
The exact opposite of Awoniyi was Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin. He was the closest to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the defunct Western Region. He was from Offa, in Kwara. Awoniyi was from Kabba, Kogi.
Olawoyin suffered intimidation in the hands of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) government of Bello. He was jailed many times over. He stubbornly failed to betray the Action Group (AG) and Awolowo. He was moved from one prison to another, all in the North, to break his resolve.
Olawoyin refused to play ball. He resisted the decoy. He was strong and steadfast. He stuck to his guns and beliefs. He never caved in even for a second. He remained forever an irredeemable Awoist. He never disappointed us. And we are still proud of him.
Awoniyi was poles apart. He enjoyed the perks of office with the Sarduana. He dined and wined to the detriment of we, his people. We cried, we protested. He never listened. For his “uncommon” loyalty to the North, he later became glorified chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
No Kwande can stop our resolve. He dares not obstruct feelings and aspirations. We are geographically and culturally bonded with our kith and kin in the South. Nothing can take this from us.
We are at home with them and more comfortable with them. That is why restructuring remains a recurring decimal. It cannot be swept under any dirty carpet.
That would be wishful thinking.